Grandfather came from a narrow small country, a strong, stout man with a will to survive, who married his sweetheart and raised up a tribe, and came to America to live and to strive. In the Capital city, of Washington, D.C., he earned for his daughters, a good way of life, and went on to teach, in this country so dear, of its government, philosophy, history, and strife. Later in life, after he had retired, he always complained of being more busy than he had ever been before in his life, and how his existence left him dizzy and tired.
When I began the poem with the lines, Grandfather came from a narrow small country / A strong, stout man with a will to survive, I meant my Grandfather Krieghoff. He was born in Chile, hence the narrow small country in the first line of the poem. His mother Ann Dessignet, who was French, was the first Seventh-day Adventist baptized in Chile. His father Carlos Enrique Krieghoff, who was Swiss, lived near Ann and heard that her family was keeping the Sabbath. Carlos attended one Sabbath and met Ann. Eventually they were married and lived long lives, he to 102 years of age, and she to 96. This is how the first creek of my family started flowing.
He showed his affection in small ways and was a confident man. One could easily see this, such as when he began to court my grandmother. At this time, he worked in the school s accounting office. Working in the same office, was a girl named Trudy Schmidt. He began to notice her and that mysterious force LOVE began its fateful work on him. He worked many late nights and took these opportunities to put pastries and other small gifts in her desk. She noticed him some, but they were not in a serious relationship. In 1939 he went to the United States to attend Emmanuel Missionary College, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, the forerunner of Andrews University. Before he left, he went to visit Trudy s father. As his studies permitted, he and Trudy wrote to each other. When he was almost finished with his education at EMC, he decided that the time had come. He wrote a letter to Trudy stating: When I returned we are going to get married. No asking, no getting down on one knee, no formal proposal, just a good old, Claudio Krieghoff statement of fact. She agreed. He returned in 1941 and they were married on September 24 at River Plate College and Sanitarium, Entre Rios, Argentina.
Both my Grandfather and Grandmother had perfectionist streaks. They demonstrated this in their love and care for plants. On the back of their house was a stairwell from the backyard down to the basement. They covered the top of the stairwell with some sheets of plastic, fastened it down and voila! a greenhouse. In this primitive greenhouse they started vegetables early for their garden and grew a few flowers. After some time they built a real greenhouse at the top of these stairs. The greenhouse was obviously a vast improvement. Incorporated into this glass and metal wonder were humidity and temperature controls, and programmable vents and shades to regulate sunlight and fresh air. Here they grew even more plants and flowers. Outside the greenhouse, a large garden, full of beans, tomatoes, and squash, offered a profuse harvest of vegetable delights.. They landscaped the rest of the lawn meticulously, complete with gazebo and little slate stepping-stone paths.
My grandmother s skill with her flowers was legendary. The company that built their greenhouse decided to make a promotional video. This video included shots of greenhouses and sun rooms the company had built, They also wanted it to contain pictures of the fruits of their structures, so for one scene they had Grandma come walking out of her greenhouse with a bright red, four foot tall masterpiece of a flower she had grown.
Grandpa Robertson was the beginning of the other brook. He brought his own unique perspective to life. Grandpa was born in Draper, South Dakota, the second of twins. He had a way of convincing people to do things. Once he was working at an academy during the Great Depression and they received a shipment of fried beets. All of the kids were very skeptical about eating fried beets, so he sat down and started eating them. He sat, munching away, saying all the while, Oh these are good. Mmmm, mmmm, boy are they good! Pretty soon, some of the kids started thinking that maybe they were good to eat after all, and started giving in. They ate some, pronounced them edible and soon others became less fearful. By the end of the hour Grandpa had all the kids eating fried beets and loving every minute of it.
Grandpa was always a hard worker. When he was 12 he got a job at a lumber company in Rapid City, South Dakota. He lost his job several times because he was under the insurance age. But, he kept going back and getting another job, just under a different foreman. One pay day, he went to pick up his paycheck along with the other workers, but the foreman said, "Boy, you step aside and wait a while." He waited until the other men had been paid and left.
The foreman asked, "What are you going to use your money for?"
"I have to get a pair of trousers to go to school. And I want to buy me a watch so I can be on time and do my work better. The rest will go for groceries for the family.", replied young Elmer.
"Well, I made you wait because you're not like the other boys. I've decided to pay you man s wages." the foreman explained, "When I would go out on the job to check, I'd find the other fellows not working, but never once did I find you not working. I'm going to pay you man s salary, and I didn't want the others to know what I'm doing."
Grandpa also possessed a kind of dry sense of humor. He used it for both fun and as a gentle means of correction. Sometimes, if someone was talking loudly at the table, he would say, I think you need to repeat that, the folks in Tulsa couldn t hear you very well. He also told this joke, called the boy and the bicycle. When I was about three or four, I didn t know what it was about, but all I knew was that it was really funny. We would beg and beg him to tell it when he would come to visit us. It went like this:
There was this boy who had gotten a new, shiny, red bicycle. Naturally, he went out for a ride down the country road that he lived on. As he was riding peacefully along, he came to a long puddle in the middle of the road. He saw a farmer out plowing in the field next to him and shouted, "Will I be able to ride through the puddle? Is it very deep?"
"No," the farmer replied.
So, the boy, acting on his new knowledge, started slowly into the puddle. Soon the water was up to his ankles, then his knees, his waist, and horror of horrors, all the way up to his shoulders! Obviously, when he finally rode out of the puddle he was not feeling very friendly toward the farmer.
"What do you mean, fooling me like that? You must have known that it was deeper than that!" the boy exclaimed.
"Well, the farmer replied, I saw a duck walk through it not five minutes ago, and it only came up to here [points to his waist] on him.
At this point we would all start rolling on the floor laughing.
The Krieghoff family took to the Robertson family quite well. Both families shared similar values such as working toward perfection and education. Although three of my grandparents were teachers, science is a field that has captivated most of us children and grandchildren. My mother had a Ph.D. in physical chemistry, my aunt has a Ph.D. in high energy physics, and my father is a physician. My cousin Sean is in Germany researching high energy physics and my cousin Claudine is working on a physics major in college. My next two older brothers and I are also planning to go into a scientific field. Both families came from different backgrounds, both brought different perspectives on life, like two streams of water from different mountains, but they have merged together into one stream, which is no longer a stream but a river. A river, stronger than the sum of the individual streams, flowing into the endless ocean of eternity.
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